RSS

Category Archives: New York City

Dumpling Disaster

Har Gow Dumplings: steamed shrimp filling, rice dough

Har Gow Dumplings: steamed shrimp filling, rice dough

It happens to the best of us. Sometimes disaster strikes in the kitchen and no matter what tricks you pull out of your sleeve, there is no way to save the mess you have created. Although I bet it doesn’t happen to my sister Amy. Ever. 😛

At the gym a couple days back I was on the elliptical machine watching the tv screen in front of me. There was a Chinese cooking show on – and this was before work and before I had eaten breakfast. So there I was, staring at the screen, mouth watering as the chef showed off a perfect pair of Har Gow dumplings – beautiful plump steamed shrimp dumplings with a translucent rice-dough wrapper, flecks of green scallion peeking through. And suddenly that was exactly what I wanted for dinner.  And yes, I could have just biked over to the restaurant near Rosenheimerplatz that does Chinese dumplings, but because I am enjoying cooking again in my own kitchen, I decided i would try to make them.

Dumplings are pretty easy to make normally – at least if you cheat and buy the dumpling wrappers already pre-rolled and cut for you. We had a fun evening a few weeks ago in NYC with one of our clients – a colleague and I went over to her place and I did a little dumpling cooking lesson for four of us on a Sunday evening. I had shopped a few hours before in Chinatown, something I had been aching to do while I was in New York and finally got the chance.

The thing is, I’ve never seen or used rice dough wrappers, only wheat dough. So naturally I figured I would just whip those up as well. When I looked up the recipe, they seemed pretty straightforward, and theoretically I could even buy the flour for the dough pre-mixed – it is a combination of tapioca flour and wheat starch. But when I went by the Chinese grocery to get it, they only had tapioca flour…and rice flour…no wheat starch. Hmm…

So I did one of these:

Dilbert: cooking substitutions

Dilbert: cooking substitutions

I bought rice flour instead of wheat starch. I have to admit…I don’t know how *bad* this is. What part of the grain is the “starch” – and how different is it from “flour?” I should have googled it to figure it out and I didn’t. Anyway…I got home and mixed up the dough and things really seemed to be ok. You need to roll the dough out into cylinders and then let it rest for a bit, which is what I did while I mixed up the shrimp filling. See, here is the dough…resting:

Dumpling dough: nice little innocent looking pillows

Dumpling dough: nice little innocent looking pillows

And indeed, everything proceeded according to plan. The filling done, I began the process of making the wrappers. Rice dough is nice and soft and as long as you have TONS of flour on your rolling pin and counter top to prevent the stuff from sticking to everything, you’re fine. TONS. They were a bit tricky to get perfectly round, but I did manage for the most part:

Dumpling wrappers: they look right, no?

Dumpling wrappers: they look right, no?

You scoop a tablespoon of shrimp filling into the middle and then wrap them up, pinching and pleating as you go. The dough was very delicate – much more so than store-bought wheat wrappers – which made it difficult, but not impossible. In the end I had a steamer full of the dumplings ready to go. They were a bit homely looking, but this was my first time so I figured for the next round I would get it right and even if they weren’t as beautiful as the ones I had seen on TV that morning, at least they would taste good.

I lined the steamer with ramps – I have them in my refrigerator anyway, so I figured they would impart a bit of a garlicky scent to the dumplings and keep them from sticking to the bamboo steamer.

Bamboo steamer filled with ugly (but tasty?) dumplings

Bamboo steamer filled with ugly (but tasty?) dumplings

And turned on the water to boil….cleaning up a bit as the dumplings steamed their way to a beautiful glossy finish. I hoped.

About seven minutes in I lifted the lid to take a peak. HORRORS! It looked like a huge mess of melting wax on top of chunks of shrimp.

I threw a pan on the stove quickly and dumped a tablespoon of oil in and cursed the fact that I don’t have a gas stove and would need to wait a few minutes for the thing to heat up. Meanwhile, I grabbed the dumplings off the steam and when the pan was hot, tried to spoon them out of the steamer and into the pan to saute them instead – maybe by frying them I could hold them together somehow.

Not to be. I ended up with a huge mess:

Utter disaster: dumplings do not look like this normally

Utter disaster: dumplings do not look like this normally

The ramps were no longer separable from the dumplings and the dough was a gluey mess that refused to fry up into anything resembling a dumpling. Sooo….lesson learned. In the end, they *were* eaten – bits here and there dunked into a bit of soy sauce, vinegar and chili oil…but my fantasy from that morning was far from realized.

Second try to come soon. Wheat starch…where the hell do I get wheat starch? 🙂

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Report: “Special Meal” on Lufthansa

Vegetarian (Indian) Special Meal

Vegetarian (Indian) Special Meal

Ok, I admit, it doesn’t look all that appetizing. But if you think about what you normally get on an airplane – some soggy peas and carrots plotzing under a cardboard-dry grey piece of chicken with an unidentifiable lump of something (mashed potatoes?) next to it…you have to be fair with your comparison. Because after eating this vague mix of mashed up looking stuff (with some rice in the middle), I have to say that for all future cross-atlantic trips, I will never be eating the terrible Spaghetti Bolognese or Chicken Teriyaki again.

This here is the “Vegetarian (Indian) Meal” that I special ordered about 26 hours before I got on the flight home. And it was pretty good. Fairly standard stuff for Indian food – a Paneer Masala, some dal and some rice. A little bit of yogurt. A strange “salad” of chana (chickpeas) that was the only sort of odd dish because Indians would never eat chickpeas that way – with no spices, just plain. At least I don’t think they would. And contrary to predictions (take note, Dirk), there *was* a dessert – the orange stuff in the corner there was a reasonably tasty carrot halwa.

There seemed to be quite a few people ordering special meals on the flight – I was mostly surrounded by Italians, although I don’t know why, and some of them had ordered meals as well, although I didn’t get a good look at them. Two orthodox Jewish men sat one row ahead of me and they received a very carefully packaged Kosher meal. I tried craning my neck to see what they had in there (order kosher next time?), but no luck. Amusing was the fact that the meals seemed to come packaged with prayers or readings. I saw one of the men pull out the slip of paper from his tray and read it after the meal.

One other amusement on the flight. About half-way through I turned to see a DOG on the plane in the row a little further down. A little guy, he was sitting at that point between his owners on the seat – quite a surprise because I always thought they had to stay in their little cage under the seat for the whole flight. Later, when I snapped this shot, he was on the floor. He was quiet as a mouse, though. It was only chance that I even noticed him there.

Pooch in the plane

Pooch in the plane

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Rice to Riches

Rice Pudding

Rice Pudding

Well hello there again, Manhattan. Been here done this and hello jetlag. Just arrived back in the homeland again last night for round two of requirements management. The guy at immigration that let me through asked the standard “what do you do,” and I answered my standard, “consultant,” leaving out “marketing” because that is not what I am doing for this kind of crazy project. That wasn’t enough for him so when I described my role as requirements manager he said something like, “that was too fast for me, can you repeat that?” I just gave up and said “technical consultant” which sounded like hogwash in my own ears. Even if it is actually true, which is more than a bit disconcerting.

Hoping my body doesn’t even really get a chance to acclimate before I get on the plane back to Germany on Thursday. I just need to survive through three more very long days and then I get a four day break before the craziness starts up again for a week in Walldorf. Thanks to the Easter holidays in Germany for the break. I would not be able to do this ping-ponging between countries without it. Yes, hello Manhattan again in two weeks right after Walldorf.

To celebrate hotel selection number 3 here in Manhattan I took a stroll down Spring street in Soho, which is quite close to the hotel this time. I remembered this strange but funny rice pudding place I took photos of some weeks back. You know, the one with “3 shitty flavors.” I had heard since then that this place really does have the best rice pudding in the world. So in true Singaporean spirit (die die, must try), I made my way back to “Rice to Riches” to discover what it was all about.

As usual it was a little overwhelming. They had about 20 different flavors, each sounding better than the next: caramel, cookies and cream, french toast, rum raisin, chocolate cherry, etc. I ended up taking peach/mango after tasting three. The stuff was indeed as delicious as everyone claimed. Rich and heavy with cream, I didn’t even want to see a calorie count near anything I was putting in my mouth. And after a few spoonfuls of the stuff I knew it was time to put it down and get out. Which I managed to do, tossing half the dessert into the bin satisfied that I had had a taste and that was simply going to have to be enough. On the way out I asked about the 3 shitty flavors and the woman explained to me there that there were always three flavors that someone didn’t like. Ah. Ok.

Today, in retrospect, I have to say it was very good. But if I think about the truly original stuff, made with milk, not cream, served in the middle eastern style with chopped walnuts and a splash of rose water, I think “Rice to Riches” might not compare. The pudding was really almost too rich to eat. I’d probably go back to try another flavor, but never again alone. I only want a spoonful, not a whole bowl of the stuff. You need a friend to eat it with.

 

Tags:

The end of the month in the big apple

Pussywillows blooming everywhere along the High Line

Pussy willows blooming everywhere along the High Line

Woo hoo! I’m home. I think I must have woken up 20 times last night in a fuzzy half-conscious state wondering where I was. The way you map your dark bedroom in your head – there’s the light, there’s the window, here is the edge of the bed, bathroom in that direction – it was completely skewed after a month of sleeping somewhere else. But still, when the fuzz cleared for a half a second, there was the satisfactory feeling of “oh, I am in my own bed and it is so comfortable!”

Yesterday, after landing in the morning and heading home, throwing in a load of laundry, taking a shower, eating some toast and an egg, I jumped on the bike and peddled into work to get my month of expense reports done (you know what it costs to live in a hotel in new york for a month? you better up your credit card limit…omg), taking the scenic route along the river. Beautiful weather, and there were sunbathers all along the banks of the Isar enjoying it. There was a moment, as I crossed a bridge to head into the inner city that I almost stopped and got off my bike to take a photo of the green blue river, the sunlight, the bathers, the bridge. But then thought…why not just enjoy it…and so I did. No photo for you, sorry.

As I was riding, I really considered the month in New York and the varied conversations with friends, family, and client about whether I could move to New York, and the feeling at least at that moment was that there would be no way I could trade the serenity of Munich for the hussle and crazy creativity of New York. I am definitely a “great to visit, but can’t live here” kind of New York person. But I have also learned: never say never.

Cherry blossoms?

Cherry blossoms?

And I have to admit, the last few days in New York were also splendid. Blossoms opening everywhere, and inside the buildings and museums, the city was celebrating the explosions of color too – my mother probably took 20 photos of the forsythias in the lobby of the Met when we were there.

Forsythia in the lobby of the Met

Forsythia in the lobby of the Met

Weather a perfect cool 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Taco trucks everywhere. 😉 Sarah, the information architect I brought in from Germany to help me for two weeks, had arrived a couple days back and for my last day I dragged her over to get lunch with me at the third taco truck I think I’ve tried. Perhaps the best yet!

Taco truck lunch

Taco truck lunch

These were from a lunch a few days before the kimchi taco lunch, but look more or less the same:

Korean tacos for lunch

Korean tacos for lunch

I know I should rave more about the great restaurants I got to visit while I was there:

Milos – the best greek seafood I’ve ever had. Fresh, almost no sauces – very pure flavors.

Esca – again seafood, this time Italian, I ordered some sea urchin pasta! Lovely.

And then there was the untried but highly desired place I missed out on because there was no chance in hell I was going to wait 2+ hours to get in: Redfarm. Believe me, I walked by a couple times to ask if they had room for one. The owner and host looked at me and said “We don’t discriminate against single diners, we just don’t have room for you for at least 2 hours.” My colleague, Alex, had the same experience when he tried to get in a few days earlier alone.

The biggest “foodie” experience, though, was probably still the trucks. It wasn’t the best food (Esca was!), but it was great fun to look at Edible City every day and find out who/what was cruising around the office.

I can’t say I am looking forward to the long flight back to New York in a week, but there are always great things there to enjoy.

West Village flowers

West Village flowers

 

 

 

Tags: , , , ,

Fog City New York

You’d think I were home in the bay area if you could see the fog swirling around today. And the problem is I promised my parents GOOD weather when they visited me this weekend. On my breakfast run this morning, I comforted myself with the fact that there was the whole day yet ahead before they arrived to burn off the white blanket lying heavy on the city.

Morning fog

Morning fog

But now on my walk back to the hotel a few minutes ago I find that the sun hasn’t found its way down and I can only hope that tomorrow is better, although we’ll likely be in museums and shops during the day and headed to a new Broadway play, “Venus in Fur” in the evening.

Evening Fog on the Hudson

Evening Fog on the Hudson

Final weekend before I head back home next Friday, although now it looks like I get a week home or maybe two before heading back here for a bit. Hmm. It’s gone faster and been more interesting than anticipated, but I still would really like to be back for longer. It is tiring to live in a hotel.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 17, 2012 in New York City

 

Tags: , ,

Words Words Words in NYC

Just (hopefully) a few laughs here as I post a couple photos of words I have seen while walking around NYC. I didn’t manage to capture even half of what I wanted to – couldn’t grab phone out fast enough or something of that nature.

On the run I did along the Hudson on Friday (and from which I am still sore – ouch – long run on pavement hurts like hell, even worse than a treadmill).

You Go Girl - Hudson River Run - Motivation! :-)

You Go Girl - Hudson River Run - Motivation! 🙂

This storage company’s signs – kind of obnoxious, but made me look and laugh.

Hudson River Run bilboard

Hudson River Run bilboard

The dumpling truck I had lunch from on Friday

Dumpling truck

Dumpling truck

Passed a specialized store: rice pudding – many different flavors. It was before I had eaten dinner, though, so I didn’t stop. It was jammed with people, though. So looks like worth going back.

Rice Pudding Place - haven't tried yet

Rice Pudding Place - haven't tried yet

Rice Pudding Place

 

Shampoo bottles that caught my eye.

Shampoo bottles

Shampoo bottles

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 4, 2012 in New York City

 

Tags: